Small Screen Quarantine – The Worthy (2016)

Back on that theme of post-apocalyptic Earth, and the struggle to remain human, and that’s what most of these films are about. It’s really the only way to separate any movie in this genre. Without that pretext, any movie in a post-apocalyptic setting is really only celluloid (or now digital) violence. Not that this latter premise is necessarily wrong. It’s all just entertainment in the end after all, but what makes for a good film is this struggle, not just to survive, but to hold onto some shred of decency, whatever that looks like. They are all good in the single sense that they set regular people in extraordinary circumstances and it’s quickly revealed that morality is relative and situational. Out here in the offscreen world we’ve already shown proclivities towards what we would consider justifiable brutality and murder. We can pretend it’s a question of survival but locking children in cages along the Mexico border, for example, is hardly a question of survival.

No, you’re not going to get objectivity from me. You will get political commentary. Most of our entire Middle Eastern policies have little to do with anything like survival. It’s just money.

Speaking of the Middle East, we rarely get films from the Middle East here in North America but Netflix has been a good reminder that the rest of the world does create art. THE WORTHY is from United Arab Emirates, though filmed in Romania. Many of the actors are famous in their own right though not household names here. Rating movies isn’t my favorite thing but I’d have to give it a 7 of 10 stars, approaching 8. It’s really the power of the acting that raises it up. It’s overdubbed which detracts from the overall, but not enough to bury the cast. They are more than solid. The story isn’t exactly original, but how many ways to destroy the Earth and render civilization uncivilized are there. Corrupt governments give way to corrupt businesses which fund corrupt private armies and eventually everything collapses. A small group of survivors, bound mostly by the moral vision of an honest and spiritual man tries to eke out some kind of existence in the new landscape and it’s all undermined by their own decency when they accept strangers into their circles. They’ve made no real next-step plans to carry on and their safety and security are compromised.

Try to tell this story one more time without getting yawns. Director Ali F. Mostafa and writer Vikram Weet pull it off, at least in my opinion.

There is a subplot that I would have liked to see explored further and the film is set up at the end for a sequel but who knows if that will happen and if we’ll see it here. It deals with social movements and reformers and how the best of intentions can disintegrate into tragedy. As in all the best of these films, there is the individual struggle to remain human, and the collective struggle to take the opportunity to rebuild something better so all the previous mistakes aren’t repeated. There are few opportunities to make such radical changes and it’s probable that anything on such a scale would have to be made from the ground up, in a post-catastrophic setting. That’s exactly what I’ve been talking about lately amidst all the nonsense about “getting back to normal” and a “new normal.” It seems obvious already that the current pandemic isn’t going to change much more than the number of times we wash our hands daily, if it even does that. It all remains to be seen. Outside of catastrophe, even small changes can take decades and generations of sacrifice and hardship. Maybe that’s what I’m looking for with all these films, a sense of direction and of people actually getting it all right. I’m rarely not pulling hard for the regular people trying so hard to be better than before (with the rare exception of central characters in The Walking Dead who I began to wish would be killed off and written out). Maybe as I queue these movies up I’m looking for hope. With this one I finished hoping for more. It could have been a great set-up for a mini-series. Eissa, the main person, is the only survivor and is left to start a revolution of conscience (and presumably violence) to offset the reign of terror imposed by a mob death cult. It’s probably no coincidence, if a bit corny, that Eissa is Arabic for Jesus… but who knows?

Anyway, how to hold onto humanity in the face of our current crisis… pandemic… human rights struggles… equality… decency… morals… ???

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